By Shelah Moody
Photos by Shelah Moody and Michael Ealey
For the past 19 years, promoters Warren Smith and Gretchen Franz have presented some of the finest in reggae, global and indie music at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, one of California’s most beloved summer events. Each year, people travel from all over the world to attend the three-day festival easily recognized by its--initials, SNWMF.
Marking their seventh year at Mendocino Campgrounds in Anderson Valley, Booneville, CA, SNWMF continued the tradition; presenting with wildly popular acts such as Third World, (Jamaica) Jimmy Cliff, (Jamaica), dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson (UK), Katchafire (New Zealand) and Luciano (Jamaica) during the weekend of June 22-24. SNWMF 2012 also celebrated the unsung pioneers of reggae such as Sister Nancy, Della Grant and the Twinkle Brothers and Prince Alla; and showcased rising stars such as Cherine Anderson, Romain Virgo and the iKronik band.
I have followed the Sierra Nevada World Festival from three sites, since 1995. Along with hearing some incredible music and grabbing some exclusive interviews, I’ve fallen in love near the waterfront at SNWMF, formed long lasting friendships and eaten the best handmade chocolate dipped ice cream bar of my life. What a party!
For me, one of the highlights of SNWMF 2012 was watching Grammy-winning singer/songwriter/ film star Jimmy Cliff. You never get tired of watching his lithe, agile frame move across the stage and hearing his ethereal tenor soar across the venue. The Godfather of Reggae, who also appears in the wildly popular documentary “Marley,” performed his some of his biggest hits “Reggae Nights,” “The Harder they Come” and “You Can Get it if You Really Want.” Cliff introduced new material from his latest punk and ska influenced album, “Rebirth,” produced by Tim Armstrong. (Armstrong describes Cliff as one of the greatest songwriters of all time).
When I spotted another real life movie star, Leon Preston Robinson IV, aka Leon (“Five Heartbeats,” “Cool Runnings,” “All the Right Moves”), in the crowd I jokingly asked him what he was doing out of Hollywood. “I thought this was Hollywood,” he replied.
Another highlight was watching Jamaica’s all-star iKronik band, featuring Rolando “Phanso” Wilson (drums), Isaiah Palmer (bass), Dwight “Duke” Dawes, (keyboards) Wendel "Junior Jazz" Ferraro, (lead vocals, guitar) and Junior “ KavaJah” Johnson (vocals, guitar, keyboards) bring their dream of becoming a successful recording and touring solo act to fruition. On opening night, iKronik performed original songs from their upcoming album including “Ride On” and “Clean Heart.” iKronik also worked extremely hard that weekend as the backing band for many of the artists on the bill.
“Our performance at SNWMF was very significant to us because it was the first festival that iKronik performed on doing our own set and getting great feedback,” said Dawes.
“We enjoyed sharing our original material with the patrons. It was a thrill to see them responding to these songs that are new to them. We also enjoyed playing for all the other artists Luciano, Cherine Anderson, Prince Alla, Romain Virgo, Sister Nancy and Perfect. We all have favorite songs by these artists and it was a pleasure working with them.”
SNWMF marked the return of the man with the velvet baritone, conscious reggae singer Luciano, as Sunday night’s closing act, who delighted the audience performing somersaults on stage and delivering his string of hits such as “Who Could it Be Now, “There's No Love” and “Give Praise to Rastafari.”
Jamaica’s reigning queen of reggae/dancehall/soul, Cherine Anderson proudly represented Jamaica during the year of their 50th Independence Anniversary. During a media conference the SNWMF press tent, Anderson, who was influenced by Whitney Houston and Lauryn Hill, sang a beautiful a cappella version of her new single, “Eagles and Doves.”
Anderson spoke about her struggles to get the song released and her commitment to producing conscious, motivational, message music as opposed to following formulas and trends. Anderson, who comes from a family of all girls, also spoke of the importance of women supporting each other. A protégée of the Grammy winning drum/bass duo Sly and Robbie, Anderson rose to global attention after co-starring in the Jamaican film, “Dancehall Queen” (1997), in which she played a sexually abused teenager. As an advocate for children, Anderson founded the Reach One Child Jamaica foundation, which provides motivation and scholarships to Jamaican youth, in 2003. Children love Cherine Anderson; it seems that that each time she performs at SMWMF, she is mobbed by groups of wee folks for autographs and photos.
When I saw Cherine Anderson perform, I was blown away; at that moment; knew why I given up a chance to see Anita Baker and Bobby Brown live that weekend in order to attend SNWMF. Backed by singers Peter Gayle and Jasmine Lue, Anderson demonstrated confidence, sensuality, style and warmth on stage.
Anderson, who described herself as an eighties baby, payed homage to imprisoned reggae artist ( and Grammy winner) Buju Banton with her own version of “Til Shiloh.” During her performance of another Buju Banton hit, “Movie Star” (originally recorded by Delroy Wilson), Anderson jumped off of the stage to touch hands with her fans in the audience and make each one feel special by personally singing to them.
The lyrics of her composition, “Eagles and Doves” capture my overall feelings of SNWMF 2012. Check it out:
Eagles & Doves written by: Cherine Anderson, Produced by: Shadow & Dream Queen
They don’t know my story; They don’t know a thing about me who are they to judge me
See my glory; but they never see my pain
People talk don’t faze I am not afraid of words that cannot break or harm me
Watch me rise no time for haters on my plane
No one can hold me down Just watch me win this crown; No one can hold me down
Fly like eagles soar like doves Can’t nobody hold me down
I got life I got love can’t nobody hole me down
So raise your glass fill your cup tonight we’re gonna live it up
Raise your glass fill your cup tonight we’re gonna live it up
Don’t believe in failure we can do it we can rise above it dreams come through
And if you get knock down, you just get back up again
Friend will come and go and the ones we love will hurt and even disappoint too
Be good to people and good comes back to you Chorus: No one can hold me down Just watch me win this crown
Follow the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival on their website: www.snwmf.com
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